Thursday, 21 September 2017


If you aren’t a writer, can you still get writer’s block?

Like ‘Friends’ is my gauge on New York twenty-something culture, so ‘Californication’ provides my understanding of a writer’s lifestyle. Currently between blog posts, reach for the Morleys, commit sufficiently endearing criminal offences, go to rehab.

I’m convinced we’re starting to become actual sailors. The Ionian and Gulf of Corinth were where we made all the mistakes. The Cyclades we started to learn. The Peloponese we started to teach (ha, of course we didn’t teach, but things are running more smoothly).

Running smoothly means we aren’t breaking down every two days. It also means I caught three tuna in three weeks. Yes that’s THREE tuna. Three weeks across an ocean that’s embarrassing. Three weeks in the Med, that gets you a lot quayside cred.

Oh yah yah, I'm a real sailor you know...

That's cute.

The Cyclades - being a sea mass of densely grouped islands - provides an ideal sailing playground for charter yachts. The Ionian on the West side of Greece is a similar story with a plethora of towns, bays and inlets. The Peloponnese on the other hand is passage territory, live-aboards only, just trying to get from one side to the other as quickly and efficiently as possible. Meaning? It’s really quiet, and the kind of bays and town quays that would be packed out by lunch time anywhere else in Greece are only half full by 8pm at night. So for a cruiser with no deadline it’s a great territory to take it easy, sail all day and pop into the nearby port at one’s leisure.


The first Tuna was the biggest, which we landed during our night sail from Milos in the Cyclades to Simos bay in the Peloponese. We pulled into the renowned sand bar bay just after sunrise. It lived up to its hype, but being the Peloponnese, had only a handful of boats. The Tuna, caught the evening prior, was 30lbs (yes THIRTY pounds) which means if we were going to eat it all ourselves we were looking at a two week slog (no freezer). So we filleted the big girl into steaks and loins and did the rounds to the other boats in the anchorage (as I said – we’re becoming sailors). A large Austrian catamaran were the most chuffed with their easily obtained spoils and at a price of zero Euros saw fit to invite us up for a beer.

“Sorry – we still have kilos worth of tuna to give away”.
“Ok, how about this evening then.”
“uuumm ok, we might pop over this evening.”
“What time?”

I’m a quarter Austrian so... water off a ducks back.

Of course I'm showing this photo again

In the words of team leader Gareth Keenan  "Bloodbath"

Packaged, ready to go.

This bags of Tuna isn't even half of it. Just saying.

It transpires that the Austrian guys were preparing for a catch of their own, which bitterly hadn’t materialised. So our gift was not only well received but was also well prepared for with all the kit for first class sushi. We were trying to give it away, but hey, the sushi was sublime. We also got to have our first tour of a catamaran which I’m marginally embarrassed to say had me converted. Frankly I don’t give a damn how it deals with rough seas, it has a trampoline.


The wind runs from West to East around the Peloponnese – we were heading East to West. Do the maths: lots of early morning starts under motor and late afternoon tacking in the face of prevailing winds. Maybe it builds character as a sailor, I don’t care.

Another harbour, another sunset.

Despite the challenging days we stayed in some exquisite anchorages in hidden little bays and coves. The kind that in the UK would be raved about (think Lulworth Cove but with turquoise waters, dense green foliage and completely deserted) but in Greece are barely considered, in the corner of a map of endless and diverse prime yachting water-estate. On the sand bar bay, just chug around the other side if the sea swell begins to veer. Porto Vitilo was huge but with little inlets urbanised by authentic Greek architecture and attitude. Porto Kigio provided all round protection on an Eastern coastline. Methoni, as close to a harbour town as you can get without a Quay – a medieval castle and architectural enhancements provided excellent shelter. A perfect combination of swimming off the back of the boat and access to multiple Tavernas willing to buy your latest catch of Tuna. Nay-too-bad. The huge natural harbour bay of Navarinou stretched for miles of empty beaches and sand banks where a short walk (WALK!) took us to the incredible and almost deserted cove of Voidokilia. If there’s one place to invest your pension withdrawal it’s here. Still only sparingly touched by tourism and expat villas it still feels off the radar... for now.

Bays Bays Bays

Apparently in American this is called 'hiking'.

7 Euro a kilo - wholesale price

Sufficient boats to afford the relaxation provided by group think and support - not too many to spoil the image and feeling of seclusion. The Peloponnese is the bomb.


We need to talk about ‘Marina-Sailors’1


Peppered amongst the outstanding anchorages were a few town quays and harbour walls. Much more rough-and-ready than the rest of yachting Greece – noticeably devoid of the cash liquid charter sailors. Githio has clearly been hit hard by Greece’s 2012 economic struggle but the locals are classically relaxed and welcoming regardless and with architecture that avoided the 1957 earthquake its Greek feel continues to charm. As we headed North, lands became noticeably greener. With foliage came forest fires and this year Greece has seen a disturbing number. Heart wrenching to see 500 year old olive trees burst into flames at the whim of a pyromaniac mentalist and afternoon winds.

The final place of remark: Kalamata marina, Kalamata city. The only international airport on the Peloponnese a prerequisite for the only ‘international marina’ on the Peloponnese. We were lucky to get the last space for a three day stay to get the broken bearings on our engine’s raw water impeller fixed and weather the strongest storm seen so far on the trip. It came in two waves and reminded us not only of the strength the weather can bring out here but also the speed with which it can change. A welcome reminder given the safety of the Marina within which we had shelter.

We had just the tiniest of leaks

With nothing between the long stretch from Africa and the outer wall, the swell on the way in was great enough to suck our dingy underneath the front of the yacht as we prepared it for a stern-to mooring. Just the next addition to the long line of valuable lessons. We were fortunate only to lose the seat.

Quick, get a picture of me being brown.

Don't ask

'Best Gyros in Greece'
Same same, but the best. 

With a few days in which to meet the other ‘residents’ of the marina, a sailor who’s name it got too late to ask and with which I use the definition sailor in the loosest possible terms; summed up a lot of what has come to affectionately resemble a ‘Marina-Sailor’. Always friendly, helpful, a pleasure to talk to and can be consistently relied upon for good local advice. But one can’t help wonder whether they’ve ever left the marina, leaving me torn: sometimes glad they’re there to provide endless tales of local advise and effortless conversation whilst also wanting to strap them to the mast and sail them out of the marina to show them what they’re missing.


From the Peloponbnese came a long Northernly climb under motor to the most Southern Ionian island of Zakynthos. Familiar waters and familiar faces, a welcome change at just over the half way mark of our time away. Lots of day sails, abundant wifi and return to civilisation to make us re-appreciate our time away.
What did you think I meant by familiar faces?

Always room for another tuna pick

1. Marina sailor

Age: generally >50, not exclusively.
Characteristics: Accommodating temperament. Incessantly concerned. Slow.
Language: Affects a Queens accent toned according to audience.
Habitat: Places of excellent shelter with local amenities.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Cycladic Dream

Hey. Long time no blog.



The strangest part of the trip is that I’m still craving my old life’s regular Pret breakfast: chocolate croissant + white filter coffee. Not just for the mind clarifying caffeine and sugar boost, but also for the efficiency with which it’s served. The efficiency one craves in the Greek Mediterranean.


The first few weeks of the trip seemed to last forever - the next month has flown by. We are at the end of our route around the Cyclades, the group of Greek islands in the middle of the Aegean sea, and the navigation saw two weeks of visits from friends and family which also kept us busy and keen to keep moving.

We have also had comparatively few maintenance and engineering issues relative to the first three weeks - which suggests our amateurism was at least in part responsible for earlier problems. As a result we have sadly spent less time sampling the regional chandlery offerings, but if you want to know anything about Cycladic ice cream shops let us know. Emily only accepts coffee flavour so we tend to visit at least three in each town before finding the one she wants. I’m easy – I just get the most artificial looking one because, as we all know, artificial flavours taste the best. [thumbs-up emoji]


Slow walkers haven’t stopped annoying me yet.


The winds in Greece tend to blow from the North. When they blow really hard they call it the Meltemi. This is important, because when the Meltemi comes, you aren’t going anywhere. And you want to make sure you’re held up in place with decent protection because the Meltemi winds can last from two days up to two weeks. In general though, the winds build through the morning, give a happy sailor’s blow in the afternoon and quieten off in the evening to provide a good night’s sleep.

Consistent northerlies also help with passage planning. People tend to work from east to west (or west to east) whilst slowly dropping down south. This provides a pleasant sailing angle for most of the trip and also ensures you have more options of islands and safe refuge when you need them. So when we left the Saronic and the wind was blowing a cool North West we decided to climb North East and obtain a good ‘height’ to explore the Cyclades with ease.

The first day we saw a new pod of dolphins to add to our tally, although they weren’t much interested in playing, as we motor sailed much of the 42 miles up to Korrisia on Kea Island. The town quay was closing the next morning, so we re-provisioned that evening and started early the next day to climb upwards again to Batsi on Andros Island, which took a few progressive tacks against the Force 5 as the wind slowly veered (rotated clockwise) through the day. The gruelling sail found the weakness in our rigging, with a broken batten car (which holds the main sail to the mast) ripping through the front of the sail. This rendered the main sail obsolete and we didn’t have the spare materials or tools to fix the eyelets that hold the car to the sail. So we had to find a sail repairer in the vicinity to which we could get to using only the head sail. Dropping south to Siros (the old capital of the Cyclades) with the wind behind us was the only viable option, even though it would give away most of the ‘height’ we had managed to build over the last two days. We decided to head off the next morning due a heavy bought of weather forecast to begin that evening and last most of the week. The forecast was wrong. The weather came in late morning and we spent the day frantically trying to outrun the lightning storm coming from the North using only the headsail. It got close, but we just about managed to tuck up into the large town of Ermoupolis on Siros island where the sail repairer lived, before the storm came overhead. Boom town.


“ahhh... uuhhh, unfortunately he cannot do it. He does not have to tools to refix to this part of the sail.”

Of course he doesn’t.

But we spent a couple of days in the large pleasant market town anyway, as the winds ripped through the harbour, and we had a few odd jobs to do besides. The gyros was great, the ice cream was better and chandleries served a purpose too.

The harbour master informed us that Paroikia on Paros island was the place to get heavy sail repairs done. Fortunately it was south, so we could sail under head sail alone. Unfortunately it was South, so we were now down to the middle Cyclades already. But the weather had cleared and it was a relaxing, albeit slow, sail down into Paros. As we entered the tiny harbour we passed a yacht on its way out. Which was lucky, because the harbour had filled up hours before, with boats now anchoring off the outside mole (harbour wall). We expected to be there for a few days and also needed to transport sails around. The Greek God’s have a sense of humour, but they can also take pity on a couple of souls in nead.


Apparently you are able to make sail repairs? Is it something you can fix?
He looks disappointingly at the rip. Makes a phone call. Ends the phone call.
Yes, I think we can fix this.
Sigh of relief.
Great. How long do you think it will take?
His look turns to confusion.
Like, when do you think you could do it by?
Uhhhmm, half an hour?
I challenge anyone to get a sail repaired in the UK within an hour of arriving in a harbour. Pret has some work to do.


By this time we also had a small repair to do to the head sail - which we could manage ourselves. We also happened to moor up next to an identical boat to Hodja, realising we had a few corrections to make to our rigging! By the end of the day we had the vessel in clean health and celebrated with a Gyros and beer for five euros.

Culture vulture. Bryzantine church yah?


We spent the next couple of days at some acclaimed anchorages, peaceful and secluded. This part of the Cyclades hadn’t been renowned for its beaches but we explored some beautiful bays, hidden away between rocky outcrops and low lying islands, totally deserted of civilisation both of the land and sea variety. The dolphins in the area are pretty friendly too.

A few new friends we made along the way. Just chillin' off the bow, you know.

Eventually we discovered a cooked battery (think burnt rubber and rotten eggs smell). So the next stop saw us held up in Naxos marina for a few days while we waited for a Sunday and a ‘worker’s holiday’ Monday in order to allow an electrician to look at our engine’s battery and starter circuit. We also replaced our engine blower and anchor markings which had both warn out. These circumstances tend to start out as frustrating but in the end force us to slow down, ‘stand and stare’, explore and discover the little things that differentiate the little corners of Greece.

Naxos marina, teaching us to slow down.

Even more culture. Do your feet hurt yet?

In Naxos we picked up on a pair of ‘ferry watchers’ sat on the harbour wall frantically capturing departing and arriving ferries. “So weird” - according to Emily - but it kind of makes sense if you think about it...


An old and rugged Greek farmer, mounted on the back of his little black donkey and accompanied by his dogs. He ushers a heard of goats along dry stone walls, through a rickety old gate and across a coastal stretch of brown barren land as the sun sets behind the hill. Returning to a single roomed white washed goatherds cottage, a hammock swings under the veranda as the dusk turns to night. How long until this quaint humbling scene is sold out to another private villa. Most of us would – that’s the tragedy.


Spells of temperamental weather lasted for a few weeks but the summer hit home as we hopped between secluded anchorages from Naxos island up to the West coast of Serifos Island. Here we tucked up into an idyllic anchorage surrounded by the remnants of an old Iron ore mine that closed down just after the first world war. In true Greek style there was no ‘wind down’ process and much of the old equipment still lays rusting away on the top of the small cliffs, including the rickety bridge, railway and even railway carts that would have once rolled the iron ore from the mine to the waiting cargo ships. We hid here for three days while the Meltemi screamed down past the entrance to the bay before we could circle back round to the ferry port of Livadhion on the south coast. It very quickly became very hot. Then it became too hot. Greek summer is here.


We picked up the old man and his partner for a ten day sailing lesson (!) on the way to Mykonos island, one of two islands in the Cyclades with an international airport (the other being Santorini). Fortunately the weather was good to us and Hodja also resisted throwing her toys out of the pram for a solid fortnight, allowing us to explore with relative ease.
Our first stop took us North to Kithnos Island, making the most of a windless morning, anchoring off ‘sand bar bay’; a large and popular anchorage either side of a raised sand bar that connects a small island/rock to the main island. It offered clear swimming water, an up-market taverna with a solid view for a short sun-downer and even a natural hot spring! Which we took the tender round to sit in for less than 30 seconds – did I mention summer was here?

The next day we tacked up against the decent wind to the top of the island before rounding the headland and preparing for an easy and enjoyable run back down the eastern side. The wind suddenly dropped for no apparent reason and after a morning of beating up we were now motoring down wind. We later found out that the Cyclades is renowned for its tricky wind patterns as the weather is channelled through the mountainous islands. Although the area can be blissful and idyllic, things can change very quickly both with time but also as you turn the corner into a new system.

Just another Cycladic town... lots to explore.
We dropped down into the small town harbour of Loutra, taking residence in one of the last remaining spaces before lunch. The town was quaint but the real business happened in the chora (an islands capital town traditionally located on the hill to evade pirates and benefit from more manageable temperatures) so we headed up after dark to enjoy traditional Greek souvlaki et al. The next morning we acquired some fresh fish from the returning fishermen before sailing East on an easy beam reach to Finikas on the South West side of the island of Siros where we anchored for the first night and moored up on the second. The weather had its final moment of madness with a day of rain and cool weather. We should have made the most of it.

Yes I made some bread along the way. Yes it looks better than it tasted.
The following day we rounded the island in excellent wind, using every point of sail and tacking up the East side in a spritely sea. We cruised into the well protected harbour for the second time, staying a couple of days to explore the large town and make use of local provisions and hardware shops. The next port of call was Tinos with its accompanying Chora and a final run down into Mykonos yacht marina to see the most miserable marina master in Greece. We dropped off Dad and Sheila to catch a flight the following day after exploring the comparatively busy town.

Mykonos, like most Greek fishing towns we have visited, boasts beautiful architecture and interesting winding lanes of small shops and cafes hugging a little port of clear calm waters. It seems unfortunate that this one has suffered from its honey-pot status, bringing mainstream restaurants, crowds of thousands disembarking cruise ships and expensive beer! Saddest of all though is its sparse and depleted harbour where it appears any boat smaller than 50m, including the colourful local fishing vessels, have been banished and hundreds of metres of local town quay space lies empty - a space that in most other Greek towns would accommodate the miles of fishing nets, local fisherman chatter and accompanying hustle and bustle. Maybe the fisherman can no longer afford the beer...


Back at the marina it was turnaround day for us: washing, cleaning, some fixing and more cleaning! The next day Nikki and Dipo landed for the week and after an evening’s exploration the next day we set sail on a long run down to the small island of Dhenousa which offered us a convenient stop-off in a small overnight anchorage spot before continuing down to the long flat island of Amorgos. We were making use of favourable winds and weather, with the island known for its unpalatability when the winds pick up! We waited for the strong afternoon heat to subside before venturing over to the south side of the island by land and scaling the mountainside to reach the large 11th century working monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa, forged to the mountain rock 300m above the sea. The climb, sweeping sea views and walk back across to the Chora offered a welcome change to our usual means of exploration. With free shots of Rakki upon arrival, it was clear the Greek Monks knew how to throw a party. Remain respectful(!)

Shots Shots Shots
The swallows of Amorgos are a persevering kind. I spent the evening clearing out a half made nest and blocking up the front of our sail bag so as to save a feathered couple more work than necessary when the inevitable happened upon setting sail the following day. But in the morning we woke to find a second half built nest on the other side of our sail, this time harbouring an egg. From memory swallows lay more than one, so I didn’t feel so bad upon raising the sail that morning. We tried to incubate the egg next to the warm fridge compressor, but after two weeks accepted failure.

I couldn't be bothered to rotate the photo - you get the idea.
On to Koufonisia, our first of three stops in the ‘small Cyclades’, the group of small islands running east to west just above the bottom of the wider Cyclades. These small islands are generally low lying undiscovered jems with fewer tourists and sightseers than the bigger names that make up their surround. They’re barren and brown but, as I understand it, particularly trendy... who knew! We anchored for the most part in and around the little rugged bays and inlets. The towns and choras that we visited offered a noticeably more authentic Greece. Although we did meet some American trip-goers there...

Trendy joints = craft beers. LADS!

The final stop off for Nikki and Dipo was the island of Ios. The sail was frustrating for more reasons that one: after taking a long tack North on a North Westerly with hope of dropping down around the island’s northern tip the wind died, and we had to motor as far as we would have done had we just motored anyway! The second problem? Reeling in your fishing line with the honest intentions of avoiding a pod of dolphins splashing off the starboard bow only to find out you’re crossing a school of Tuna!

The town quay if Ios was surprisingly quiet but we were firmly under the moon to learn of the island’s status as the Irish equivalent of Magalouf. An unsavoury surprise but we rolled with it...

Rolling with it.
We were left on our own once again with a couple of stops to go before our long night’s passage across to the Peloponese. We hopped over to Folegandros with its impressive protection from the strong winds that provided us an intense sailing speed of 7-8  knots despite two reefs and half a genoa. We left early the next day for a journey through the old pirate hangout of Stenon Milou-Kimolou (a channel surrounded by three islands (Milos, Kimolos & Poliagos) to end up at the enormous natural harbour within Milos Island. It was clear to see why the pirates of yore favoured the area; at a crossroads between the east and the west the cosmopolitan chora of Zefyria offered ample ‘trade agreements’, secure shelter with its innumerable coves and three escape routes between the islands meant they could never be cornered. The wind doesn’t hell blow in all – plenty of propulsion!

Just another bay. Just another anchorage.
It was here that our tour de Cyclades ended, in the quaint port town of Adhamas at the north end of the natural harbour. It was fortunate that the town did not disappoint - the night we arrived the Meltemi began to blow, stranding us for seven days as we waited for a gap in the weather to venture the overnight passage across to the Peloponese.


There is never a good time to discuss fishing in the Med. Historically a notoriously spars sea according to the Romans. It’s comparatively small and cut-off nature - relative to the surrounding settlements that lived from it through the ages - few people seem to have a lot of ‘luck’. It has also been hit by human factors in more recent history with dynamite fishing, pollution and EU legislation that has pushed local fisherman on to lines rather than nets but with no one checking the number of hooks per line! Local fishing boats tend to show up with small versions of species and many a sailor will tell you of their punitive reaping compared to the number of hours they’ve had a line in trail. On the other hand you also meet the few skippers with ten tuna tails hanging from their rigging talking of how easy it is. We finally got some decent local advice whilst in the small Cyclades: a sardine lure with a scoop at the front, 50kg line, 5 knots, sunset or sunrise. Low and behold, the day we ticked every box at the start of our night sail from Milos a 30lbs tuna was ours for the eating. Easy!

This is not an illusion!


Our first night sail begins...

Monday, 5 June 2017

Maintain. Course.

During our  2010 summer holidays, Emily and I spent a week near Galway, Ireland, re-enacting scenes from P.S. I love you. On a rare deviation from the script we went horse riding, something she had spent a lot of her childhood mastering. Something I had spent very little of my childhood mastering. Naturally I was saddled (I hate puns) with the old and greying but experienced horse. Our initial introductions were challenged by my falling off as I went to mount the loyal stead and this was followed by him ignoring my instructions at every turn, tracing the same route with which he was well versed. In the end he saved me from much further embarrassment and back at the stables we bonded over a pack of polos and excessive nose rubbing. At the time I genuinely believed he was sad to be led away and I had developed an affinity towards him. We probably both got over it pretty quickly.


Our first month of sailing has been a pendulum of nailing a stern-to mooring against heavy crosswinds in front of a crowded restaurant, to going aground in calm and regularly visited waters. I mentioned the grounding quietly in our last blog but here I highlight for all to see after we found out it was quite common and so far seems to have done no serious damage to the boat - hopefully. Our inexperience but hard work are showing through in their own ways. We're learning a lot, but when we fall short Hodja seems to pull up the slack, saving us embarrassment and has a way of surviving the tough times despite our inabilities. In return, the old girl takes some looking after, with constant attention to her engine and electrics, never ending maintenance and an ongoing puzzle as to how a boat can get so dirty when we’re surrounded by crystal clear water?

Just fixing stuff. You know.


Emily bought “Sea Breeze” scented cleaner...


But we have managed to keep on the move during our most recent leg through the Saronic islands. The longest we have stayed in one place between the Corinth Canal and the Cyclades was a second night in Poros, where we had to get a mechanic on board but fortunately just to confirm all was ok with our squealing prop shaft. Huh?

Korfos was our first anchorage of call – it was our second open water anchorage but near to a town where we could sample the local Aegean chandlery shops via tender; we were in the market for a filler to fix the crack sustained to the side of the boat in the unprotected ‘protected’ harbour of Corinth. I also bought some rope, just because.

We’re starting to see the same boats here and there which I hadn’t expected but is quite reassuring at times – especially as most of the yachts we meet have been going for a few years, with the accompanying experience. At one stop we were talking to a couple from Lymington who were delivering a yacht for a friend. They had done a lot of sailing all over the world including New Zealand and Australia. The next yacht that turns up, sailed by a Kiwi who hand built it himself, knew the Lymington couple. They had met in Australia after they sold him their second head sail three years earlier...


The second stop after anchoring in Korfos was intended to be the harbour town of Aegina on Aegina Island but room with sufficient depth for our two meter draft was lacking. We circled the harbour for ten minutes, shouted at a departing boat to find that they had grounded their Beneteau 44 ;-) and swiftly departed for an anchorage further up the island. The spot was ideal, well protected from the South Easterly wind and had a great little taverna for dinner and drinks - where we met a Dutch touring group who had pulled up next door shortly after our arrival. The very same group we sailed past three days later to much yahooing.

Our fondness of the anchorage soon deteriorated when we were rudely awoken at 3am by some unusually large wake. It felt like a speeding tanker had passed uncharacteristically close to the land. Except the wake didn’t stop. And when we investigated on deck found that the wind had veered and brought with it the largest seas we have seen to date. The next step in said experience was for the anchor to drag, duly obliged. So at 0.3m below the keel we fired the engines, lit the Nav lights and motored out to re-lay the anchor and hope for some bite on the patchy sea bed. We were lucky and only had to spend the next couple of hours monitoring as our Dutch friends were forced to do the same. No casualties that night – good times.

We sailed off anchor late the following morning after catching up on some sleep, headed onwards to the large but sufficiently quaint town of Poros. Most large Greek towns seem to have either suffered ruin post 2012 economic crises or a sizable earthquake between now and visually appealing architecture disappeared from the Mediterranean builder’s repertoire. So it was a pleasure to climb the steep slopes of the old town and sample the local Greek coffee, watching the ships come and go from a height. Hi German couple who helped us out in Corinth, sure we’ll take your lines for you.

After our two night stay we headed for the small but notoriously upmarket port of Idra (Idra island). On the way, we saw a rare Mediterannean Monk Seal as we squeezed between the mainland and close islands/rocks. One of only 500 left in the world due to selective habitat and low fish stocks. It was nice to see. We’ll call him Gunga Din.

Upon arrival the hill side town was everything you’d want from a backwater version of the south of France. Boutique shops, lots of tiny lanes and passages to get lost in, slightly more expensive beer/coffee and lacklustre chandlery shops. Quayside mooring was free though, in the absence of a port master, which may also help to explain the unusual rafted-stern-to mooring which we haven’t seen before or since and hope never to experience again – carnage.

The chartered boat next-door to us was frequented by a group headed by a chatty Kiwi, based in Lyon, with his French possy. We’ll call them group A.

The following day we left early, as places in the Saronic seemed to fill-up fast and we wanted to get a decent sport in the port of Spetses (you guessed it – on Spetses island) for the following night in response to weather forecasts. Good decision, as protected spaces were severly lacking due in most part to a resurgence in local fishing boats which rarely seem to leave the harbour. It was a ‘rough around the edges’ version of Idra with one of the last remaining working caique boat yards adding some genuine character above white walls and blue timberwork. Next-door to us was a British family of five, chartering for the week and skippered by the father. Circa 45 years old based on career and children but looking good for his age - he was a tank mechanic in the army for 25 years. Naturally we invited him over for a good look round Hodja’s Yanmar 29 and his musings were useful and surprisingly reassuring. Top man. We’ll call them group B.

The final stop before crossing to the Cyclades, the middle group of islands within the Aegean sea, was a quiet anchorage sandwiched between the mainland and two low lying islands/rocks near to the sea lion spotting grounds we passed not two days before. Naturally I put two and two together and lowered the tender, fishing rod in hand, under the assumption that the sea lion must be living off something. After two hours it transpires he is a better fisherman than I.

There were two other boats tucked into the cove where we lay, and the couple from one popped over in their tender on the assumption that had I been lucky with the rod that they would be duly invited for dinner. I broke the sad news but their conviction was unwavered, duly returning with substantial volumes of drink to console us, which worked a treat. This we call group C.


Group C were on their way back to Athens to return their charter boat. They had spent the night before at a similar anchorage four hours back in which they had helped and subsequently gotten to know a French group skippered by a Kiwi – group A. The night before that they were moored in Porto Kheli where they met a guy who fixed army tanks – group B. From memory of passage plans and in hope of a typical ‘world is small moment’ I have every certainty that Group A and B spent that night chatting about an American couple that helped them anchor and this weird English couple who were stupid enough to throw away their careers for an outrageous tan and never ending boat troubles. I gave the Kiwi details of the blog – I bet he threw them away. We’ll never know.


I use never ending boat troubles in good taste. Breakage and maintenance is an inevitability that we are slowing learning to embrace and appreciate that it’s at least forcing us to get to know Hodja well and learn about maintenance and repairs more generally. So far Hodja has been solid against everything we have thrown at her, both knowingly and through our stupidity. Refusing to dip her bow amid heavy seas at 3am. Holding her line on a gusty shore after some amateur moves by her crew. Keeping herself straight when astern at the time you most need her to – in front of the packed restaurant crowd. Everyone loves their own steed. Indeed, sailing around the Med there are many like her. But this one is ours.